The Great Britain track and field squad will travel to the European Team Championships in Bergen, Norway, next weekend without the two female athletes from these shores who occupy top spots in the 2010 European ranking lists. In the case of Jodie Williams, the 16-year-old schoolgirl from Welwyn Garden City who leads the continental order in the 200m and who stands joint second at 100m, the selectors have taken the expected course of allowing her to concentrate on her GCSE examinations and on the UK Under-20 Championships, which take place in Bedford next weekend.
In the case of Jessica Ennis, the leading heptathlete in the continent and the world, she has been granted the weekend off to recover from her three-event challenge at the IAAF Diamond League in New York this Saturday before the European Championships trials in Birmingham on 25, 26 and 27 June.
Williams, winner of the 100m and 200m at the IAAF World Youth Championships at Bressanone in Italy last summer, has made a stunning start to the season, setting a European youth 200m record of 22.79sec and a British junior (under 20) 100m record of 11.24sec. No other female European sprinter has broken 23 seconds for 200m this year, but Charles van Commenee, the head coach of UK Athletics, is happy to accede to the wishes of the teenager and her coach, Mike McFarlane, for her to spend this summer focusing on her studies and on the IAAF World Junior Championships, which take place in Moncton, Canada, from 19 to 24 July.
"We have decided to stick to what we agreed in the winter and not to change that because suddenly Jodie is running so fast," Van Commenee said yesterday. "We are doing this in the interests of Jodie and the other junior athletes. We know that we may lose some team points but I'm happy to pay that price for the longer-term future. We are sacrificing the ideal result in 2010 for the bigger fish to catch in 2012."
Van Commenee said he was "disappointed" that Andy Baddeley, the 2008 Dream Mile winner, had not made himself available for the men's team but said he was happy to allow Ennis some time off in a busy competitive schedule that has already included the Hypo-Meeting heptathlon at Gotzis in Austria. "The decision with Ennis was mutual," he said. "I think it's in her long term interests. She was open to competing in Bergen but Baddeley didn't give us a choice."Reuse content